10.12.2021 Author: Viktor Mikhin

Parisian “Wheeling and Dealing” in the Persian Gulf

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The first official European assessment of the recent round of talks in Vienna between the representatives of Iran and those of the E3 (Great Britain, France, and Germany), Russia, China, and the US came, oddly enough, from Dubai, where the quick-witted French president Emmanuel Macron announced what he called the failure of the foregoing phase of the negotiations. Appearing before journalists, Macron stated categorically that the most recent round of talks was a failure, and he hinted to Reuters that there will be a pause before the next round.

No other European leader had commented on the negotiations prior to Macron, and at time of reporting no other Western leader has commented on the state of affairs between Iran and the West in the same way as Macron, who apparently fancies himself a fortune-teller. The reason for this may well be the fact that, on the very same day that a further round of talks concluded at the sumptuous Hotel Coburg, the president of France departed on a tour of the Arab Gulf states At the same time as Iranian and European negotiators were locked in intense, heated, and important debates, Macron, who prefers to look out for number 1, arrived in the United Arab Emirates with a large political and economic delegation.

After the plenary session between Iran and the G4+1 group, the French joined with their European and American colleagues in an unfounded accusation that Iran supposedly “doesn’t seem serious”. They even accused Tehran of using the Vienna talks, which lasted only a week, to play for time in order to expand their nuclear infrastructure and walk back from the settled compromises achieved with great effort over the course of the previous six rounds.

Iran, on the other hand, firmly denied Western lies about the negotiations, underlining the necessity of a rapid conclusion to the talks. The reaction of the Iranian negotiators to European and American deceitfulness and baseless criticisms showed that the West has a number of problems with the talks. Firstly, Iran entered into the talks with the goal of conducting dialog on an equitable basis to achieve a fair deal. Secondly, Iran caught the West off-guard by presenting carefully thought-out proposals. Thirdly, the Iranian negotiators made it clearly understood that Europe is applying ignominious double-standards to non-nuclear questions.

Regarding this third reason, it seems that Iran has made it clearly understood that the Vienna talks must be limited exclusively to nuclear questions, as laid out in the 2015 agreement officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Meanwhile their European and American “colleagues” have stated that they want to use the JCPOA as a starting point for the resolution of other questions barely related to this issue, such as Iranian missiles and Iranian influence in the region. An analysis published by the state news agency IRNA states that the USA is undoubtedly trying to compel Iran to conduct negotiations regarding ballistic missiles after the renewal of the JCPOA. But this goal, which is shared by America’s obedient satellites in Europe, was far from being achieved at the last round of talks. Iran is quite clearly unwilling to conduct negotiations on questions of the utmost importance to its national security, especially at a time when France is transforming the Persian Gulf region into a storehouse of weapons, most of them offensive. But for some reason, the USA and its European “allies” have kept quiet about this development.

During his visit to the UAE, Macron and the crown prince of Abu-Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, attended the signing of an unprecedented contract for 80 Rafale war-planes at the cost of 14 billion Euros. According to reporting by Arab Weekly, this order, signed at a time when France’s negotiators at the Vienna were twisting the Iranians’ arms to reduce their stock of defensive missiles, is the largest international order for Dassault Aviation planes since the year 2004. These French “wheeler-dealers” can, as the saying goes, foist anything on anyone with a charming smile and a firm handshake.

The UAE, flush with oil wealth, is one of the largest purchasers of French armaments and has also signed an order for 12 Caracal military transport helicopters costing, in total, more than 17 billion Euros. These arms deals clearly demonstrate the ignominious double standard that France is applying to questions of security in the region, whereby states can be armed to the teeth if those arms were provided by the West. On the one hand, Paris is calling on Tehran to reduce its conventional arsenal, such as its defensive missile armament, and on the other hand it’s lavishing the most up-to-date offensive weapons on the UAE. It is here worth noting that enough weaponry to equip the Emirati army twice over is already rusting away in the Arabian desert. Moreover, it is unlikely that these French planes will be flown by spoiled and pampered Gulf Arabs more accustomed to camel-racing. More funds will flow to Paris for French pilots and technicians to service this modern technology, and for the spare parts to maintain planes ill-adapted for service in a hot and humid climate. The miserly French will not redesign the planes for use by the UAE: that would require them to spend money.

The French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, spoke of this as a “historic contract” that supposedly “directly contributes to regional stability”. The F4 Rafales, which are currently in the development stage, will be delivered from 2027. “This is an outcome of the strategic partnership between the two countries, consolidating their capacity to act together for their autonomy and security” was the facetious verdict of a French official statement on the deal.  With this purchase of fighters, the UAE is outdoing the air-fleet of Qatar, its competitor in the Persian Gulf, which bought 36 planes; and Egypt, which ordered 24 in 2015 and 30 at the beginning of the current year. The new order will replace the 60 Mirage 2000-9 planes bought by the UAE in 1998, and comes after 10 years of hitherto unsuccessful negotiations by the then president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. At present the Rafale company has six foreign clients, including Qatar, India, Egypt, Greece, and Croatia.

Mubadala, an Abu-Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, has also promised to invest eight billion Euros in French enterprises, at the same time as the Louvre has extended the license granted to its Abu-Dhabi branch for another 10 years, to 2047. According to a report by the legislature, the Emirates have become the French arms industry’s fifth largest customer, with production for this market valued at 4.7 billion Euros in the period from 2011 to 2020. So who’s stirring the troubled waters of the Persian Gulf? Here is a clear and straightforward answer.

According to current reporting from media opposed to Macron, he is haunted by the “achievements” of Nicolas Sarkozy, the previous president of France, who was detained by police all the way back in 2014 and, after being questioned in court, was charged with corruption, abuse of office, and influence peddling during his presidential term. The court then sentenced him to a year in prison and two years probationary for corruption, abuse of influence, and violating the secrecy of a judicial investigation, and in September 2021 he was sentenced to another year in prison for exceeding the statutory limit on campaign spending. If, as has now been proven, Sarkozy received cash from the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi – that is, if he acted as an errand-boy for a proud and wealthy Arab ruler – then the question arises: why has the UAE purchased planes from France in particular, and what role does Macron play in all this? The world may soon discover what really ties the president of France to the wealthy elite of the UAE, and what morsels the Gallic cockerel has offered to the Arab sheikh by way of thanks: namely, the promotion of his interests in Europe. Such Frenchmen as these have for some time enjoyed a reputation as experienced “wheeler-dealers” willing to peddle the prestige and influence of la grande nation for the sake of their own self-interest. As for the peace and progress of the peoples of the Persian Gulf, that is the least of their priorities.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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